Catching Up with VetsWork Environment Intern Amanda Williams

by | Field Notes, VetsWork

Our Outreach Coordinator had a chance to chat with Amanda Williams, Public Outreach Specialist on the Chugach National Forest in Alaska.

Tell me a bit more about your position.

I am the Public Outreach Specialist at the Cordova Ranger District on the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. I wear many hats, coordinating with several individuals to create media for the Forest Service. The vision for this position is to bring some positive attention to the Cordova Ranger District, keep the community in the loop on the great work we are doing here, and share our story on the many amazing recreating opportunities there are here. It is a beautiful place with endless outdoor adventures to be had, and my goal is to get the word out. Cordova is so beautiful I am really enjoying living here – I feel like a tourist in my own country! 

What is your favorite part about your position? 

I really enjoy getting to work with all of the different departments and meeting people with extensive knowledge in their respective fields, I am constantly learning. I also really enjoy going out with different crews and doing a plethora of things such as documenting them monitoring aquatic species and artificial nest islands for Dusky Canada Geese, and traveling to places like Montague Island to check in on Forest Service cabins.  It feels like a never-ending adventure and new experience. 

What has been the most challenging part of your position? 

I moved here in winter during COVID, so finding a sense of community was challenging at first. I knew I had to create relationships and once I got the ball rolling, I have made some incredible friendships and I love the community here. I learned that you just have to make the best of whatever situation you are in. 

Has anything surprised you about this position? 

It was a pleasant surprise to see how nice everyone is here in the sense that it is a very “help your neighbor” vibe and a strong, tight-knit community. It is quite the departure from my home state of California, where everything seemed more fast-paced. However, coming here, no matter what you need, where you are, everyone is always willing to lend a hand, and a slower, more mindful way of living.

What is one thing you have learned so far? 

There is always room to grow. I manifested an adventure coming up here and I am growing as a person mentally, physically, and emotionally because of it. Writing for a federal organization has been a bit of a learning curve, but that was to be expected and am a quick study.

If you were going to recommend the program to someone else, how would you describe it? 

It is the experience of a lifetime. The Forest Service is such a cool organization, there are so many moving parts and you are always learning. You meet intriguing, intelligent people who want to make a difference. They strive to be good stewards of the land, they want to educate and encourage, and it is a great organization. The way that the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) has supported me in this journey has been beyond my expectations. You will never be lacking in the support department, whether it be personal or professional. What you get out of this experience is incomparable; you get to learn something new, live in a place you might not otherwise get the chance to, and expand your knowledge in your respective niche. How often do people get the chance to do something like this? I would definitely do it again and think anyone who can, should. 

If someone is about to start the program, what advice would you give them? 

Be sure to ask many questions and be super proactive. Take the time to understand where you are going. Also be open minded to new experiences, go with the flow and whatever comes at you, tackle it head on. 

Any fun stories you want to share. 

One day we went out with my supervisor to go halibut fishing. We took his boat out; it was such beautiful weather, whale tails everywhere, very picturesque. I landed one and the fish was so big it was a team effort to get it into the boat. I am not fisherman, and it was a fun challenge! It was a battle and I had to pass the pole off to the crew to get the monster size fish into the boat! We cleaned and filleted it ourselves and enjoyed eating the halibut.